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Our First Time to Europe with Our Kids, Porto Edition

Actually, this was our first Europe experience with our little ones, Nico & Oli and I have so much to share that I don’t even know where to start!First things first, it’s absolutely no secret that we adore exploring with our little family, and picking their first experience to Europe was a challenging job for us. Instead of going to a popular destination, we opted to do a country I was swooning to discover for a while, Portugal.

Portugal is my friends, one of the best-hidden gems of Europe without a doubt.
In partnership with Air Transat, we started our trip with Porto, Portugal’s second most important city, filled with leaf laced churches, impressive azulejos and a medieval colorful heart I loved.
This post is the first one of our Portugal series, we’ll show you how to get there, what to do, what to eat (duh, obviously!) and how to explore it smoothly with kids if that’s your case.

Our top 15 things to do in Porto! Scroll down to get all the details (:

  • Managing a lengthy flight experience with kids is something a bit stressful, and seriously, leave that to Air Transat. They have direct flights from Montreal to Porto and Lisbon (and only 7 hours) and the most dedicated crew I’ve seen to date. We took their red-eye flight ( I always wanted to write that, lol) and the kids were sure to catch on their sleep during the flight. Option Plus is our number one thing to do as soon as we book a trip with Transat, basically, it’s having all the club class perks in economy class. You can benefit like we did of an extra piece of luggage, priority boarding & baggage handling (a total win with the kids),  seat selection and snacks during the flight. 
  • On top of our Option Plus, we decided to treat ourselves and try the new Chef Vézina’s menu during the flight. My fave? Pork filet mignon with Quebec blueberries, you will NOT believe this is real. delish!
  • What to pack if you’re traveling with two to Europe? I was SO concerned about this, and we decided to bring one big suitcase that could fit my things, Oli’s and Nico’s and packed an extra backpack for my hubby’s like this one and this one. Don’t ask me how, but I still managed to pack 7 pairs of shoes AND travelling light – HEAVEN. We left our carry-ons at home and only took a backpack with me like this one.
  • After reading a lot and asking a few local friends, we voted to bring two umbrella strollers with us. You will totally need one (or a baby carrier) because the hills are intense in Portugal. 
  • Porto’s airport is very close to the city center and we took a taxi to our hotel that only cost us 15 euros. Taxi drivers are a delight and they will recommend you local things to do as well. 

  • Porto is very laid back and so easy to explore. Because we brought two little ones (5 and 2-years-old) with two strollers, the hop on hop off yellow bus worked wonders for us. The ticket was valid for two days and way cheaper to get all the way to Matosinhos and Foz instead of Uber or metro. 
  • People in Porto (and Portugal in general) are the kindest and most helpful you’ll meet and won’t have a problem communicating with you in any language. We did our “portuñol” the entire trip and the kids loved to be able to express themselves in Spanish with new people. 
  • We didn’t bring heavy/big things with us and decided to buy everything there, including diapers, shampoo, and all the kids’ snacks. They have plenty of options and grocery stores all over the city, so don’t worry about that. 
  • Bring cash! We didn’t know that most of the restaurants and coffee shops in Porto only take cash, especially in the touristic area of Ribeira. 
  • Local tip: the easiest way to skip the upward stairs and hills? take the Funicular dos Guindais for 2.5 euros the ride, a shining brand new tram car in the city that will bring you down to the Ribeira and Duoro river views. 
  • Changing tables for babies is almost impossible to find, so be ready to rock and roll!

These are our top experiences during our stay in Porto that we loved (print my map and let’s discover Porto together!)

  • São Bento train station: there’s always something magical about train stations but in all honesty, São Bento exceeded all our expectations. Their walls hold around 20,000 azulejos (blue tiles) with Portugal’s history. This is a breathtaking experience!
  • Bolsa Palace: Porto’s past and present money merchants home is where the exchange of Portugal once operated. The highlight of this place? Go upstairs and check the Salão Arabe, and Arabian Hall with the most beautiful 18kg gold doors you’ll see in the city. 
  • Livraria Lello: Opened in 1906, this place has been named as the busiest libraries and most stunning in the world. Fans of Harry Potter? This place it’s rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling when she was living in Porto back in the 90’s. Tip: You need to get a ticket to enter in their gift shop next door. If you are traveling with kids, there’s a priority line in the front cash. 
  • Igreja do Carmo: this is one of the biggest churches in the city (along with the Igreja do Carmelitas) and it has a stunning wall of blue tiles people usually stop and stare for a while. Both churches are one next to each other, separated by one of the narrowest houses in the world. 
  • Clerigos Tower: We decided not to climb the tower because our little ones were napping when we got there, but if you’re not claustrophobic you’ll see the best views of Porto from here. 
  • Cais de Gaia: The views from here are simply, to die for (my first picture was taken from this spot). You can also enjoy a riverfront restaurant and a Porto wine, so win-win!
  • Old Foz: This was one of our favorite areas of Porto! Foz Velha (Old Foz) is the posh side of the city, almost like Ribeira but with a charm, I didn’t see before. Here is where you’ll find all the dreamy tile houses, the Pinterest-worthy laundry facades, and swoon-worthy lemon trees in the backyards, like a Wes Anderson movie. 
  • Matosinhos Beach: a short ride from downtown Porto, you’ll find Matosinhos, the city center of fresh seafood and best fish restaurants. Things you can’t miss here: the largest sandy beach in the Porto area, Echelman suspended public sculpture and their popular market. 
  • Ribeira District: The most photogenic side of Porto and the oldest neighborhood, Ribeira’s historic area is a pleasure to see. You can take a boat trip on the Douro river and have the best Portuguese food in a picturesque tiled building. You’ll LOVE it. 
  • Best views of the city: From the Clerigos tower,  The Porto Cathedral (that is a must to see)and the Dom Luis I bridge. 
  • Tram 1: On our way back from Old Foz, we jumped into the famous Tram 1, that covers a wonderful route from Foz to Ribeira. The best part? You’ll be traveling in an original 1930 tram (imagine Nico and Oli’s reaction!), and it isn’t crazy crowded as I thought I’d be. A single ride is 3 euros and kids ride for free.
  • Porto Cathedral: built in the highest point of the city, this building is a must see with incredible views of the Ribeira district. 

This stunning view, from the Porto Cathedral
Old Foz beauty!
Matosinhos beach, we loved you and miss you!

My favorite part, let’s talk about food! We stayed in a beautiful & an affordable hotel that didn’t have tons of eating options so we fully stacked our little room with veggies and fruits especially with two jet-lagged kiddos that woke up the first two nights at 2am hungry (I’m not even kidding). Our favorites places in Porto were:

  • Pisca restaurant: Located in Foz Velha, this little place served THE best croquettes we had the entire trip. I can’t wait to go back for them one day!
  • The Traveller Caffe: We felt very pampered during our breakie with fresh orange juice and Portuguese bread. The staff is also lovely.
  • Majestic Cafe: A must visit during your trip to Porto. It’s a bit pricey to eat so I went for a coffee only. this famous spot opened in 1921 and kept the same Belle Epoque decor nowadays. 
  • Cantina 32: Located in the beautiful Rua das Flores, we stopped at this popular spot for drinks and an appetizer. Tip: they have a lovely terrace in the street and you’ll have a great prime access to the live music from Rua das Flores. 
  • Sandeman Porto: We enjoyed the Douro river sunset while sippin’ the best Porto wine we had! This place is one of the most awarded ones, so check them here.
  • Cafe Santiago: The best Francesinha, the typical plate you need to try in Porto. A Francesinha is a croque monsieur in steroids (and I mean this), is a sandwich with cured ham, steak, sausage, all melted in a secret sauce (kinda like a poutine sauce) and cheese, lots of cheese. if that’s not enough, you can top up with a fried egg and french fries for dipping.
  • A Perola do Bolhao: this is the most traditional grocery store that has a large quantity of Portuguese local products, from fresh cheese, sardines, olives and more. Tip: You need to see the beautiful Art Nouveau facade, it’s absolutely beautiful.
  • Esquires Coffee: located in downtown Porto,  we discovered this brunch spot during our last day and we loved it! we had eggs, traditional bread and some bacon with a yummy cafe simple.

  • Best Pasteis de Nata: we adored having them fresh and warm from Manteigaria bakery. SO GOOD (caps totally needed).
  • Vogue Cafe: this brand new spot is as fashionable and stylish as you can imagine. Dreamy tiled floors and dreamy cocktail menu. Check all the details here 
You’ll find fresh fruits and coffee in every corner. loved this!

Our first Porto wine experience, a must!

We did as many picnics as you can imagine, and it was the cutest idea ever.

We love Porto! (I know, we did too, cutie)

This is the Bolsa Palace heaven. I still can’t get over it.

Having all the fun at the Porto Cathedral, they wanted to stay here all day!
One of the views of Old Foz

Sao Bento train station beauty (:
Let me introduce you to the cutest: Vogue cafe

These 10 magic days were made in partnership with Air Transat. All comments, overload of pasteis de nata and fun were entirely mine.  

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  1. Your photos are STUNNING! What a lovely trip. The colours are so vivid! I would love to get there one day.xx Gabriellapastelsandpastries.com

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